Around the country, some 400,000 airport and airline employees and vendors must lift heavy luggage every day. This number includes baggage handlers, screeners for the Transportation Security Administration, flight attendants, gate agents, aircraft maintenance, ticket counter personnel, taxi and shuttle drivers all must hoist bags up and down in order to get people places.
That sound you hear is the sound of 400,000 people's backs giving out.
Accidents occur because of:
- Luggage being heavy, large or odd-shaped baggage
- Baggage load being unbalanced
- Bending over and twisting while lifting
- Moving lifting disabled passengers
You can read all the ergonomic "hints for lifting" brochures OSHA distributes and still suffer serious, job-threatening injury. Even when a bag does not exceed weight limitations, continued lifting of smaller items can result in slipped disks and injuries to the spinal cord.
A matter of money
Airports and airlines are doing everything imaginable to keep ticket prices competitive. One aspect of this is resisting workers' compensation claims by injured workers.
It is important, once you have sustained a lifting injury, to report it to your supervisor. Failing to provide this information in a timely fashion could result in you losing the right to claim any compensation at all.
Second, it is usually a good idea to work with an experienced workers' comp lawyer who has been through the process hundreds of times, and knows how to counter the usual denials, delays, and diminution of benefits.
A world of hurts
Back injuries are not the only injury airport workers sustain in the line duty. People fall, and have heavy things fall on them. People get run over and crushed. They get cut, they get sick, they acquire repetitive stress injuries over time. But back and spine injuries remain the leading cause of time away from the job.
Watch how you lift - but also be mindful of your rights under the workers' compensation system.